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Daily Journal
     May 25, 2022      #79-145 KDJ

Kankakee holds school celebration for the girls'

By Cody Smith

KANKAKEE — The thrill of victory is layered. Sure, the immediate rush of adrenaline-filled emotion in the simple fact of being the best is a big part of that thrill.

But the celebration — both reflecting on the moments that led a champion to that point and the wonders of what that championship means next — factor just as much in that equation.

The moments created making sports history are memories that will last a lifetime and the Kankakee High School girls track and field team created another one on Tuesday at their honorary school celebration in the school’s auditorium.

At this event, the team was honored for winning the school’s first IHSA team state championship of any kind by winning the Class 2A State Finals at Eastern Illinois University this past weekend.

“We don’t get to do things very often for the first time in school history, especially in a town like Kankakee that’s so sport-crazy,” Kankakee Athletic Director Ronnie Wilcox said. “To win our first team state championship in school history, it needed to be acknowledged in the greatest and biggest way we possibly could, and so I’m grateful and excited to be able to celebrate the girls.”

Wilcox, along with head track and field coach Marques Lowe, board member and athletic department volunteer Jess Gathing and multiple others from the Kays coaching staff took time to address and congratulate the Kays for their monumental achievements this past season in front of fans, friends and family members.

In addition to speeches by the administration and coaching staff, Kankakee held a celebratory dinner, where everyone could gather to eat and take pictures with the first championship trophy to grace the school’s hallways.

“I think it’s great to be honored tonight,” state champion long jumper Na’Kyrah Cooks said. “I like how everyone is really supportive of the school, our track and field program and all the accomplishments my teammates and I created.”

Lowe took over the track and field program just four seasons ago and ever since then he’s quickly turned the Kays program into one of the strongest teams in the entire state, culminating in a historic spring that included much more program history than the state title.

“The fact that the girls came back this season and won the state championship is remarkable,” Lowe said. “Winning our first conference title in school history, winning the first sectional championship in 25 years and then winning the first state title ever, I could not have asked for anything else in the world right now.”

Some members of the squad got a fan-perspective view of the celebration that took place earlier this fall for Kankakee’s IHSA Class 5A state runner-up finish in football, part of a historically-successful fall sports season at Kankakee that set the tone for the rest of the year.

But for senior sprinter Sydney Ramsey, who ran on the Kays’ gold medal-winning 4x100-meter, 4x200-meter and 4x400-meter relay teams, being a part of title-winning team is almost beyond words.

“It was fun to see the football players get the opportunity to celebrate their achievement, but actually experiencing it for myself and with my teammates and people that I actually love and talk to everyday it’s just an amazing feeling,” Ramsey said. “It has me speechless.”

Out of all the legendary moments created throughout the season most team members noted that the things they’ll remember most about this year is the family atmosphere created within the team.

“The most thing I’ll remember about this season is the way we all got along and clicked so easily,” freshman Naomi Bey-Osborne, who earned individual gold in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes and team gold in the 4x100 and 4x400, said. “Everybody accepts everybody and nobody talks about one another.

“We all work together and I like how we can all work together as a family.”

That family atmosphere, along with an influx of coaches across the sports spectrum, has helped almost every sport at the school make some sort of history the past handful of years.

And it’s even helped Wilcox keep his promise of bringing a state title back to Kankakee before the time his eighth year concludes as the school’s athletic director.

“It’s year seven, and we have two state trophies (football and girls track) and we are going to get a third one on Saturday with boys track, Wilcox said. “...There is so much greatness in Kankakee it’s unbelievable, and we are just starting to realize it.”

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